There’s some question as to how far the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent “endangerment” finding with regard to climate pollution allows the agency to go in terms of protecting the climate without further enabling legislation. Over at Grist, Michael Livermore points to a new report from the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU Law School that argues the EPA can go far indeed—all the way to implementing a full-bore nationwide cap and trade system.
I think nobody regards that as the most desirable outcome. From a green point of view you’d much rather have the kind of policy sustainability that comes from writing a law that will stay in force even if the next administration takes a different view of things. But Livermore says “at the end of the day, with climate tipping points breathing down our neck, and the Copenhagen summit looming large, it is good to know that our President could pull the trigger.”
I don’t disagree. Though of course one should also recall that there are limits to presidential fiat. Aside from what the EPA can do legally there’s the question of what it can do politically. And the answer is that it can do whatever there are 40 votes in the Senate to uphold. Anything further reaching than that, and you’ll just get legislation aimed at explicitly curtailing the EPA’s mandate.